Sources tell TSN the National Hockey League Players Association has filed a grievance over the Chicago Blackhawks mishandling of a number of its qualifying offers and intends to argue the players affected by the mishap, who remain unsigned, should be ruled unrestricted free agents.
The NHL will be notified and can agree with the NHLPA's filing, or the league can disagree and the case will move on to an expidited hearing.
"In response to various media inquiries, the National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA) confirms today that it has filed a grievance regarding the failure of the Chicago Blackhawks to submit Qualifying Offers to its 2009 Restricted Free Agents prior to the deadline stipulated in the CBA. The NHLPA will make no further comment on the matter, which is now pending before the Impartial Arbitrator," said Jonathan Weatherdon, NHLPA Spokesperson.
At this moment, it's the Players' Association's contention, these players are unrestricted free agents and free to negotiate with any team.
The NHL is sure to fight back.
If the PA is accurate and the players involved are deemed unrestricted free agents, the Blackhawks could lose both forward Kris Versteeg and defenceman Cam Barker to the open market.
The interest in these two players league wide as UFA's would be significant. In Barker's case, one league source cites his value at $3 million on the low end, and as much as $5 million on the high end.
The Chicago Blackhawks have cap issues and may not be able to afford to compete in the feeding frenzy without making drastic moves to free up money.
This issue is far from resolved, but early indications suggest it may not end well for the Chicago Blackhawks.